Marie Smallface Marule

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Marie Smallface Marule
Marie Smallface Marule.png
President of Red Crow Community College
In office
January 6, 1992 – 2014
Succeeded byRoy Weasel Fat
Personal details
Blood Indian Reservation, Alberta, Canada
DiedDecember 31, 2014 (aged 70)
Alma materUniversity of Alberta (B.A.)
OccupationAcademic administrator, activist, educator
AwardsNational Aboriginal Achievement Award (1995)
Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)
Alberta Centennial Medal (2005)
Academic work
DisciplineNative American studies
InstitutionsNicola Valley Institute of Technology
University of Lethbridge

Marie Smallface Marule (Isstoikamo¹saakii,[a] 1944 – December 31, 2014) was a Canadian academic administrator, activist, and educator. She served as executive director of the National Indian Brotherhood, chief administrator of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, and secretary of the Indian Association of Alberta. Marule was president of Red Crow Community College from 1992 to 2014 where she led the creation of several indigenous studies programs. She was previously an assistant professor of Native American studies at University of Lethbridge.

Early life and education[edit]

Marie Smallface was born in 1944[2] to Emil and Olive Smallface. She had numerous siblings and was raised on the Blood Indian Reservation.[3] Her mother was a cook's helper at a hospital while her maternal aunt was a cook.[4] She was a member of the Fish Eater clan[5] in the Kainai Nation of the Blackfoot Confederacy.[6] Her maternal grandmother, Rosie (née Smith) Davis (Blackfeet, 1873–1983), was born at Fort Benton, Montana, and migrated to Alberta in 1877. She worked for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police[7] and the court at Fort Macleod as an interpreter and was a well-known quilter.[8] Smallface was one of seven children who were encouraged to attend school in Cardston where an Anglican Indian priest thought she would succeed.[9] Her older brother, Allan Smallface served in the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Germany.[4]

Smallface began attending the University of Alberta (U of A) in 1962. While at the U of A, Smallface participated in the National Indian Council (a predecessor of the National Indian Brotherhood) and represented Alberta in its 1964 Princess Pageant competition. In 1965, she became involved with the Canadian Indian Youth Council along with Harold Cardinal who was elected president in 1966. She also participated in the Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton and the Indian Association of Alberta. Smallface joined the U of A Club International as well, where she met and befriended several African graduate students and learned about the politics of decolonization.[10] In 1966, Smallface was one of the first indigenous women to earn a B.A. in sociology and anthropology at the University of Alberta.[11]



At the suggestion of the U of A's Dean of Women, Mary Saretta Sparling,[10] Smallface became one of the first indigenous women to travel to Africa with Cuso International from 1966 to 1970.[11][12] She started with CUSO in 1966, at a girls' camp in Northern Province, Zambia, near Lake Tanganyika before relocating to Lusaka.[10] She worked with an Indian official to evaluate a UNESCO-sponsored literacy program.[10] She later worked in community development.[6][11] Smallface met her South African husband, Jacob Marule, while living in Zambia. He was a refugee of apartheid and an exiled member of the African National Congress and was immersed in the Non-Aligned Movement prominent in Lusaka when Marule met him.[11] Marule traveled to Tanzania and was influenced by Julius Nyerere's philosophy on African socialism. She was intrigued by his respect for culture, and tradition while also exploring decolonization. Marule later influenced George Manuel, the first president of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, with her ideas on using indigenous philosophy to guide politics.[10] A moped accident left her in a hospital in Lusaka for six to eight weeks.[4] In the fall of 1970, Marule and her husband Jacob moved to Ottawa. There they hosted social and political gatherings, which included politicians as well as Manuel and diplomats from a number of African countries.[10][13] Jacob Marule worked at an agricultural centre in Kentville, Nova Scotia.[10] Subsequently, they had two daughters and a grand-niece who they raised as their own child.[5]

After being recommended by her old U of A colleague, Harold Cardinal, Manuel hired Marule as an executive assistant at the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB). She added political ideals and academic perception to the NIB Manuel lacked.[10] In March 1972, Marule attended the Native Women's Conference to discuss the Indian Act where she challenged its contents on the legal status of Indian women married to non-Indians. Under the act, Indian women lost their legal tribal status as Indians upon marriage to a non-Indian.[14] In 1972, Marule and her husband assisted Manuel by providing international contacts in Stockholm and arranging meetings for him at local embassies. He met the Tanzanian ambassador to Sweden, Michael Lukumbuzya, and Chinese Embassy officials.[11] Jacob Marule and Manuel spoke with these officials about Third and Fourth World liberation and the possibility of the NIB visiting the People's Republic of China.[11] George Manuel said later that Marule had become the "backbone" of NIB and was "the first person to be able to show me, from direct and personal experience, the close relationship and common bonds between our own condition as Indian people, and the struggles of other aboriginal peoples and the nations of the Third World."[10]

Marule helped plan the 1972 World Council of Indigenous Peoples' conference. She used her contacts in the Third World to convince Guyana to host the 1974 preparatory meeting for the conference in Georgetown. Attendees included representatives and delegates from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, Colombia, and Norway.[11] Marule served as the chief administrator of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples. She was the secretary-treasurer of the NIB for several years and later as executive director with Manuel as president.[6][11][4] Marule served as acting chair and vice-chair of the Blood Tribe Police Commission, chair and member of the Blood Tribe Elections Appeal Board, chair and vice-chair of the Indian News Media, and secretary of the Indian Association of Alberta.[15]


Marule taught community development and literacy at Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.[6][16] She joined the faculty at the University of Lethbridge (U of L) in February 1976 as an associated professional officer in the Native Students' Association. Later in 1976, she worked as an academic assistant.[2] In 1983, Marule became an assistant professor of Native American studies in the area of politics and economic development.[2][3] She left U of L in June 1989 to join Red Crow Community College (RCC). On January 6, 1992, Marule became president of RCC.[5] At RCC, she developed curriculum focused on the needs of indigenous students.[6] She led the creation of the Kainai Studies Program and the Niitsitapi Teacher Education program. These programs are intended to transfer the traditions and knowledge of Kainai people to future generations through their own institutions. Marule aimed to increase the importance of education to her local indigenous community. In other initiatives, Marule connected First Nations knowledge and culture to academic programs in nursing, agriculture, and science. In June 2006, RCC graduated jointly with the U of L its first group of First Nations teachers trained in the Blackfoot Education curriculum.[3] Marule retired as president of RCC in 2014.[5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Marule died on December 31, 2014. A memorial service was held on January 10, 2015, at Senator Gladstone Hall on the Blood Tribe Reservation. Her vision was one of preserving Indigenous cultures and language through education, promoting higher learning locally, but also nationally and internationally.[5] She is remembered for developing inclusive curricula so that education respected cultural heritage and indigenous identity.[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

For her advocacy work in education and the human rights of aboriginal peoples around the world, Marule received the 1995 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for education.[6] In 2002, she was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for outstanding community and education service. Marule received the Alberta Centennial Medal in 2005 for her work in community and education development. Athabasca University presented her with a doctor of letters in 2006. She received a doctor of law from University of Calgary in June 2010.[3] In 2014, Marule received the Esqoao Dorothy McDonald Leadership Award and the Circle of Honour from the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.[16]


  1. ^ Translation: Winter Thief Woman[1]


  1. ^ "Obituaries". The Lethbridge Herald. 2015-01-09. Archived from the original on 2019-08-16. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  2. ^ a b c "Marule, Marie Smallface". University of Lethbridge. 2015. Archived from the original on 2019-08-16. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Obituaries". The Lethbridge Herald. 2015-01-09. Archived from the original on 2019-08-16. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  4. ^ a b c d Carlson, Nellie; Goyette, Linda; Steinhauer, Kathleen (2013-07-03). Disinherited Generations: Our Struggle to Reclaim Treaty Rights for First Nations Women and Their Descendants. University of Alberta Press. ISBN 9780888646422.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Aboriginal Education and Rights Leader Marie Smallface Marule Walks On". Indian Country Today Media Network. 2015-01-10. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Miller, Christine; Chuchryk, Patricia (1996-08-15). Women of the First Nations: Power, Wisdom, and Strength. University of Manitoba Press. ISBN 9780887553967.
  7. ^ "Rosie Davis fonds". Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Glenbow Archives. 1957. GLEN glen-799. Archived from the original on 16 August 2018. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  8. ^ Diemert, Christine (18 October 1984). "Quilts have history stitched into fabric". Calgary, Alberta, Canada: The Calgary Herald. p. F1. Archived from the original on 16 August 2019. Retrieved 18 August 2019 – via
  9. ^ Carter, Alixe (1971-10-14). "Marie Marule fights for her Indian heritage". The Ottawa Journal. Archived from the original on 2019-08-19. Retrieved 2019-08-19 – via
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i Crossen, Jonathan (2014-05-21). Decolonization, Indigenous Internationalism, and the World Council of Indigenous Peoples (Ph.D.). University of Waterloo. Archived from the original on 2019-08-16. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Manuel, George; Posluns, Michael (2019-03-12). The Fourth World: An Indian Reality. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 9781452959245.
  12. ^ "Marie Small Face-Marule". Cuso International Volunteers. Archived from the original on 2019-08-16. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  13. ^ Hall, Anthony J. (2003-11-10). American Empire and the Fourth World: The Bowl With One Spoon, Part One. McGill-Queen's University Press - MQUP. ISBN 9780773569980.
  14. ^ "Marital Status crucial issue". Star-Phoenix. 1972-03-23. Archived from the original on 2019-08-26. Retrieved 2019-08-26 – via
  15. ^ "Marie Smallface Marule". Indspire. Archived from the original on 2018-05-23. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  16. ^ a b "Esquao Awards honour Aboriginal women throughout Alberta". Alberta Native News. 2014-04-21. Archived from the original on 2019-08-16. Retrieved 2019-08-16.